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Our Inner Ape: The Best and Worst of Human Nature Paperback – 4 Sep 2006


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Our Inner Ape: The Best and Worst of Human Nature + The Bonobo and the Atheist: in Search of Humanism Among the Primates + Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved (Princeton Science Library)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (4 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862078823
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862078826
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

  • An eagerly awaited publishing event... a revealing picture of the inner ape- what lies inside each and every one of us' Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape
  • 'A profoundly illuminating book on humans by a great primatologist' John Gray
  • 'De Waal's prose is as elegant and engrossing as ever' BBC Wildlife magazine
  • 'De Waal's love for the apes comes through strongly in his warm, well written description... De Waal tells a captivating and fascinating tale' Popular Science Review
  • 'De Waal has, accordingly, put new life into a debate that appeared to be running out of steam' Sunday Times
  • Including photographs by the author
  • For further information go to www.ourinnerape.com; author interview on Granta website

About the Author

Frans de Waal, Ph.D. is a biologist and ethologist. His 5 previous books, translated into 14 languages, include The Ape and the Sushi Master,/i>, a New York Times, Notable Book, and Peacemaking Among Primates. His research has been funded by NATO, the Guggenheim Foundation, and The National Geographic Society.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 16 Nov 2005
Format: Hardcover
Primatology, the study of our ape cousins, must at once be the most rewarding and thankless jobs in science. On the one hand, these investigations can tell us more about ourselves than any philosophy or psychology curriculum can hope to impart. We learn of their friendships, conflicts, desires, social manipulations and group politics. The resemblances to humans make compelling reading. On the other hand, the long history of our culture has conditioned us to avoid recognising our evolutionary roots. There are "the animals" and there is "us".
With thirty years' experience in the Netherlands and the United States, de Waal wants us to understand how human values derive from primate origins. His careful studies have revealed things unexpected even to himself. His chief aim with this synopsis is to dispense with the many myths that have emerged over the past few years - chimpanzees as "murderers" or "war-makers"; bonobos as over-sexed and gender indifferent, both as "simply wild animals living at the command of "instinct". Diversity and individuality are a major facet of ape societies which, in de Waal's assessment, not only makes them worthy of study, but worthy of sound comparison with our own species.
At first glance, de Waal's condensation of ape behaviour into four topical chapters seems over-distillation. The material in those chapters, however, shows the complexity of primate personalities. Chimpanzee society is male-dominated, with young males taking every opportunity to displace the "alpha" group leader. They live in a strongly hierarchical society where the males hunt and dispense meat for sexual and other favours. Female chimpanzees form few alliances, although brief excursions with males other than the alpha occur.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L. Owens on 29 Aug 2006
Format: Hardcover
Primate behaviour books have a habit of plunging into mawkish sentimentality, or avoiding this by being so dry that they could be used to mop up spills. This one is a glorious exception. Written by a US-naturalised Dutch primate expert, his descriptive, emotional, carefully-measured, pithy and resonant writing perfectly walks the tightrope between observation and interpretation, and using this to explain aspects of human behaviour that we never even thought about before. He includes a lot of important information about chimpanzee and bonobo society, which is enthusiastic without being effusive, measured without being dull, and includes amusing and illuminating examples from humans, all their primate relatives, and beyond. Even his cat, Diego, gets a lookin. His further-reaching comments contextualise us neatly in the animal kingdom, while highlighting how our unique capacities might be turned towards improving the world in which we live. I have tried to fault it, but I can't. Read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Wildlife Bookworm on 30 Aug 2007
Format: Hardcover
The brilliance of this book lies chiefly in its ability to effortlessly convey complex sociological theories to a wide audience. Writing in a form that allows 'ordinary' people to appreciate and understand our fascinating relationships with our closest relatives without sacrificing any of its potency in the translation.

Our Inner Ape is basically a study of the development of human characteristics through the course of evolution, focusing mainly on mental aspects such as morality and empathy. Using behavioural experiments and extensive observations of both wild and captive apes (particularly chimps and bonobos) De Waal demonstrates how little we are removed from our primate cousins and theorises what factors might have steered the evolution of human mentality towards what it is today.

My favourite thing about this book is the inclusion of many anecdotes that the author has amassed over his decades of research. Some of these are truly overwhelming. Whether horrific, amusing, or emotional these stories really bring home not only the intelligence, but also the individuality of these animals as well as giving an insight into the social worlds of ape colonies.

The book could be much improved with more numerous and better quality pictures. There is a small group of old photos in the middle but these are all in black and white and are either facial close-ups or taken in a laboratory. Colour photographs with better captions and showing some of the behaviour discussed in the book would be a great improvement.

Although this is a relatively easy book to read and understand you need to pay attention to grasp many of the concepts. It moves at a fast pace and there is a lot to take in, but put the effort in and you will be glad you did.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 11 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback
I was not really into primatology until i read this book. The way Frans De Wall writes about us, the chimpanzees and bonobos is just mesmerising. Its is well written, easy to read and a facinating topic, with some horrifying and heart warming true tales from his experiences with these apes. I could not put this book down and read it from cover to cover. The little known bonobos come off better than either chimps or us, with their open matriarchal society. It really made me think more about human nature and where we came from!
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Format: Paperback
This must be one of the most revealing books about human nature that I have ever read. It clearly exposes all our inner conflicts, e.g., between kindness and cruelty, power and submission, sex and prudishness, openess and xenophobia. Moreover, it clearly shows where those conflicts come from, that we share many of them with chimps and/or bonobos, but that in some ways we are unique. The observations and experimental data that Frans De Waal uses to back up his claims range from endearing to absolutely horrible. Absolutely recommended!
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